Bring back English
A classroom in Malaysia where Malay is being taught. Reuters

The outspoken Sultan of Johor has urged politicians in Malaysian to restore English as the medium of instruction in schools, slamming politicians for their double standards. Malay is the medium of instruction in national schools in the country.

Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said politicians in Malaysia were in "self-denial" and had chosen to play politics with education by being "heroes of their races." he said: "They talk about nationalism but they too send their children to boarding schools in Australia and the United Kingdom."

In an interview with national English language daily The Star, he said: "I am confident if we have an education system based on a single stream for students from young age, we will be able to create a community which is more harmonious and can work together to face challenges in the future."

He said children can still be taught Malay or Bahasa Malaysia as it is called, as the country's national language. "You can still have English as the medium of instruction, but BM [Bahasa Malaysia} and Chinese or Tamil are compulsory," he suggested.

The Sultan pointed out that English was the medium of instruction in schools in the 1950s and the 1960s and a pass in Malay and Mathematics was compulsory.

The medium of instruction was changed to Malay in the 1970s but in 2003, the Policy of Teaching Science and Mathematics in English was introduced, but it was stopped seven years later.

According to The Star, English-language lobby groups like the Parents Action Group for Education have been pushing for the return of, or at least the option for parents to choose, the discontinued policy that they say was needed to improve the mastery of English as well as technical subjects.

Emulate Singapore

The Sultan also said that Singapore has done well for itself, with an English education system in place. He said Malaysia can learn from how Singapore has forged national unity through its education system, which he said has not only helped develop the nation but also brought its people together regardless of race and religion.

"Singapore is our closest neighbour. We don't have to go very far; we should emulate them as the island republic has achieved development way ahead of us," he said.

Sultan Ibrahim added: "Let's be honest with ourselves. Singapore has done well as a country. Their students fared very well in Mathematics and Science. The prominent use of English has set them ahead of us."